Don’t knock the ’Net until you try it

By Paul McMullen


You believe that municipal budget problems would be solved if local governments simply enforced the existing fines for talking and texting on cell phones while driving a car.

You still shake your head at the people on Bluetooth headsets, the ones who appear to be having a conversation with themselves but want you to think they are closing a big business deal on their smartphone.

You do not Twitter, Facebook, send email or check out YouTube for the latest viral sensation of pandas playing poker. You have gotten by just fine all of these years without a computer, resisting the pitch that exemplifies the conspicuous consumption that fuels the digital empire.

You don’t know what you are missing.

Remember the days when the delivery boy brought three daily newspapers to your doorstep – and later the mailman brought fat, glossy magazines such as Life and Look, and the even more urgent offerings of Time? Most of that watchdog reporting and feature writing is still out there – just a few clicks of a keyboard away.

Want to find out what is occurring in your community and connect with the Class of 1941, Korean War buddies or fellow Hemingway fans? The Internet makes it easier to find an old friend and research the best time to buy a car, let alone track the dirty dealings of a corrupt politician.

You watch Homer Simpson and know that he is descended from Ralph Kramden, but were you aware that you could watch old episodes of The Honeymooners online?

Did you know that you can now go to and get daily updates, from Annapolis to Rome, on breaking news that is of vital importance to Catholics? The Catholic Review is not going away – it’s just built a new website that makes it easier to find out what is happening, in your current parish and your old one.

Yes, too many children are damaging their brains and their parents’ bankbook with incessant texting, and too many adults are addicted to online gambling and pornography. The digital world can be as alluring as any false idol, and idle time spent there is not found again.

Yet, its modern convenience is a marvel. With Skype, you can see your loved ones from long distance, not just talk to them. That’s how I connected on Christmas day with a daughter 3,000 miles away, and the next day with a sister in Europe.

Romanticizing the past fogs its hardship. For all the appeal of bygone days, does anyone really want to go back to 1932, when our grandparents in Appalachia had to haul wood and water, and stoke the stove to cook and clean?

Do we want to return to the days when a child born deaf might not benefit from a cochlear implant? Do we really want women in the Middle East to return to life before the Arab Spring – uprisings made possible by social media?

Change isn’t coming, it is here. Rather than asking you to silence your cell phone before Mass, some lectors are instructing the faithful to access the breviary on their e-readers. Kodak moments might be going away, but the digital world can create new memories – and help track your old ones.


Paul McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.